Back in December (my birthday, actually), I reported something I heard from a reliable source. Mike Holmgren was interested in becoming the next head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
That was back before the job was open, when certain head-in-the-sand fans would scream at anyone who pointed out the obvious: Jim Harbaugh’s days were numbered.
“It’s just the media starting stuff! He’ll be back! Stop trying to drive our coach away!”
A lot of those same fans now scream about completely different things, like how Harbaugh was holding the team back because he refused to get rid of his a bumbling offensive coordinator. And they’ll throw in how Harbaugh was impossible to work with and deserved to be fired due to the team’s red zone struggles and clock management concerns.
Anyway, Harbaugh would end up getting mutually Yorked and Holmgren never came close to landing the gig. However, as Holmgren told Rich Eisen, it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Eisen: Do you still have the coaching bug? What about you wanting to come back and maybe put on the headset in the National Football League, not for the Southern Bowl?
Holmgren: Yeah, you know Rich, I did. It was hard, and I think it’s hard for anybody when you’re doing something for so long as intensely as we do it. And then, this last December, after the season, I had a couple of chances, and almost took one of them, and then realized that, ‘What am I doing?’ You know, I’d be traveling across the country and my grandkids are all in Seattle, and my life is really good but I had the bug still, and then I told my agent, ‘You know, the one I’d really kind of like to do is San Francisco,’ and so they reached out to the 49ers and essentially, I got a call back saying, ‘Nah, we’re going with a younger guy.’ And you know what? I probably needed to hear that because you get your ego stroked and you’re flattered when people call you and you kind of get into a place where I’m not sure you’re making great decisions, but when I heard that I said, ‘Okay, I needed to hear that and now I’m going onto other things.’
The 49ers wanted “a younger guy,” eh? Hmmm … sounds familiar. Isn’t this is the same team that was sued for age discrimination several months ago by two longtime employees (Anthony Lozano and Keith Yanagi)? Out of curiosity, I did a quick search and found out from a site called Law360 that the suit is going to an “early settlement conference.”
The move comes after the 49ers sought to escape the suit filing a motion to dismiss arguing the ex-employees had signed termination agreements releasing the team of responsibility for any employment-related claims. The judge Wednesday said that motion and a group of others will be heard in October.
The suit was lodged in January by Lozano, a facilities manager for the team for 22 years, and Yanagi, a 25-year employee who was director of video operations when he was fired. They alleged that despite years of excellent performance reviews and dedicated service, the 49ers axed them because the team wanted to hire younger employees from tech companies in Silicon Valley as part of the company’s push to renew itself as a “technology startup” within the National Football League.
They say that 49ers executives, including CEO Jed York, openly disparaged older workers, and that when they were fired, they were not afforded entitlements outlined in the federal Older Workers Benefit Protection Act. They say that they were not provided with the required 45 days’ notice, along with mandatory statistical information about the age of those being fired, which if provided would have demonstrated a pattern and practice of age discrimination.
The 49ers has argued that the complaint fails to state any claims for which the team can actually be found culpable for because they both signed “negotiated separation agreements in exchange for substantial compensation.”
The dispute dates back to 2010, when the team hired Gideon Yu, a former executive of Facebook Inc. and other tech firms, who was to help make the team a tech-driven entity. He referred to older workers as “legacy employees,” a discriminatory term for older employees in Silicon Valley, according to the suit. According to the suit, other senior employees were terminated around that time as the team actively sought to recruit younger technology workers.
David Fucillo — who graduated from law school and passed the bar exam before becoming a full-time football blogger — explained what the 49ers have tried to do in response to the suit. Fooch expects a settlement will eventually be reached. As for Holmgren, he’s free to do “other things” while Jim Tomsula (who is 20 years younger than Holmgren) coaches the 49ers.